And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 16, Number
In this issue:
Joe R. Price
It seems some brethren have an aversion to using the expression “false teacher” and to applying it to those who advance error. They have adopted a very limited use of the expression, telling us it takes more than teaching what is false to actually be a false teacher. They say the false teacher is marked by an evil heart of ignorance and insincerity. For example, “A false teacher is surely one whose dishonest motives and/or ignorance distinguish him from the sincere brother who has reached an erroneous conclusion” (Ed Harrell, “Homer Hailey: False Teacher?,” Christianity Magazine, Nov., 1988, p. 9).
Our interest here is not prejudicial labeling, but the proper identification of conduct. No doubt, some false teachers have evil motives (2 Pet. 2:3). Regardless of the motivations of the heart, a false teacher does more than merely reach an “erroneous conclusion”; he advances (teaches) his error by instructing others. As a teacher, he comes under the Lord’s “stricter judgment” for what he teaches, how he teaches and why he teaches (Gal. 1:6-9; Jas. 3:1; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; 4:1-5).
Thankfully, the apostle Peter did not shrink from identifying false teachers and warning us of them. He strictly warned, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1). Their words are not the “way of truth”, but “deceptive”; fabricated, fictitious and false (2 Pet. 2:2-3). They are plastic preachers who trade the truth for a lie for the sake of covetousness, convenience and comfort (2 Pet. 2:3; 2 Tim. 4:3-4). Their destruction is sure (2 Pet. 2:3-11).
Peter’s warning against false teachers in 2 Peter 2 cautions against the error of their teaching as he also exposes the corruption of their character. Wise, obedient faith prompts us to “test the spirits” in light of apostolic truth in order to hold fast what is good while abstaining from every form of evil (1 Jno. 4:1-6; 1 Ths. 5:21-22). Consider Peter’s warnings against false teachers and their teaching:
False teachers endanger souls with their “destructive heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1). Their ways are “destructive” and many souls are lost as the “way of truth” is blasphemed (2 Pet. 2:2).
False teachers entice and exploit souls into sin with deceptive words (2 Pet. 2:3). Not content with forsaking the right way of the Lord themselves, they “entice unstable souls” with false teaching that satisfies the flesh as it ravages the soul (2 Pet. 2:12-17).
False teachers enslave souls with the corruption of error (2 Pet. 2:19). Their words are eloquent but empty (“they speak great swelling words of emptiness”, 2 Pet. 2:18). Their message satisfies fleshly lusts, offering men “‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace” (2 Pet. 2:18; Jer. 6:13-15).
The crucial point is whether or not we are willing to make the applications needed in order to identify and avoid error. Truth will build us up and will expose error when we do the work of first examining what we are taught and then refusing what is false while clinging to what is true (1 Ths. 5:21-22). Otherwise, we jeopardize our souls. So, let us make some practical applications by examining false teachers and their false doctrines.
1. Marriage, divorce and remarriage (MDR). Some will not touch this subject with a 10-foot pole. But, Jesus did, and so must we (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:3-12; Mk. 10:1-12; Lk. 16:18; 1 Cor. 7:10-11; Rom. 7:2). Yet, because more than a few will not, the sin of adultery is minimized and redefined out of existence by false teachers whose error comforts sinners in their sinful remarriages. Some brethren hold and teach that alien sinners are not answerable to the law of Christ on the subject. (Marriage is from the beginning and Christ’s authority applies to the marriages of all men, including the lost, Matt. 19:4-6; Heb. 13:4; Matt. 28:18.) Other brethren teach adulterers may remarry with God’s approval, saying that when one is loosed from the marriage bond, both are loosed. (Jesus said this person “commits adultery” in remarriage, as well as the one who marries him or her, Matt. 19:9.) Some brethren teach that the words Jesus spoke do not apply to people today, effectively removing Matthew-John from the new covenant, including Christ’s personal teaching on divorce and remarriage. (They fail to believe Jesus came “preaching the gospel of the kingdom”, and have Him teaching the Law of Moses, Matt. 4:23.) Some brethren teach people should remain in the marriage they are in when they become Christians, regardless of past divorces and remarriages. (These misapply 1 Cor. 7:20, “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called” by advising those in sinful remarriages to remain together. But, since they are not “with God” in that relationship, they cannot remain in it, 1 Cor. 7:24. Repentance demands ending sin, not remaining in it, Acts 26:20; Rev. 9:20-21).
So, ask your elders or your preacher what they teach on MDR and compare it to God’s word. Are they false or faithful teachers? It does not take long, in most cases, to determine what is being taught (or not taught) on the subject. We must be willing to “test the spirits” or we will suffer the consequences of error’s unfettered advancement.
2. Fellowship. Amazingly, many Christians who teach the truth on MDR will have fellowship with those who teach and practice error on the subject. The apostle John emphatically explained the loss of fellowship with God when one goes beyond the doctrine of Christ and when one accepts into fellowship the teacher of error (2 Jno. 9-11). Yet, preachers hold gospel meetings where error is taught and practiced, but the sin is not publicly addressed, exposed and rebuked. Preachers who teach error on MDR are accepted without question, using the rationale that such things are “matters of opinion” and “differences that have always existed”. Two cannot walk together unless they agree, yet many think they can disagree on doctrine and still walk together (Amos 3:3). They are walking, but not with God (1 Jno. 1:6-7).
Ask your elders or preacher what they teach and do on the subject of fellowship. Do they agree to disagree with brethren on matters of “moral and doctrinal import” like MDR?
Beloved, we must not be deceived by false teachers who fabricate error and fight against the truth and those who uphold it.
Scripture Reading:Judges 16:28-30
1. Sin is real and
its deceitfulness lures many unsuspecting souls to spiritual ruin, Heb.
I. SIN WILL ALWAYS TAKE YOU FARTHER THAN YOU WANTED TO GO, Judges 16:4-20.
A. Samson’s Will was Finally
Broken by the Constant Enticements of Delilah, 16:15-17; Prov. 1:10-16;
4:14-15 (1 Cor. 15:33); 7:1-5; Exo. 32:1-6; 32:21-24.
II. SIN WILL ALWAYS KEEP YOU LONGER THAN YOU WANTED TO STAY, Judges 16:20-21.
A. Samson had no Intention of
Remaining Bound, 16:20; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Tim. 4:2; 2 Pet. 2:19; Lk. 15:11-17.
III. SIN WILL ALWAYS COST YOU MORE THAN YOU INTENDED TO PAY, Jgs.16:30
A. Samson’s Recklessness with
God’s Blessing Cost him his Sight, his Dignity, his Strength, his Freedom,
and Finally his Life, 16:21, 25, 30.
The Faith is Defended and Extended (Acts 11)
Scripture Reading:Acts 11:21-26
1. The inclusion of
Gentiles in the kingdom of God is completely consistent with Christ’s
teaching, Matt. 8:10-11; 21:43.
I. CONTENDING FOR THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL, Acts 11:1-18.
A. Peter’s Conduct is Challenged,
II. THE GOSPEL TRAVELS NORTHWARD, Acts 11:19-26.
A. Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch,
III. BENEVOLENT RELIEF TO NEEDY CHRISTIANS, Acts 11:27-30.
A. God Tells the Christians of an
Approaching Famine, 11:27-28.
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Twittering Away Sin's Punishment
Joe R. Price
The Vatican has announced Catholics may obtain indulgences for following the events of World Youth Day (week-long event starting July 22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) on Twitter. Indulgences will be granted by the Church to the faithful who follow the “rites and pious exercises” of the event on television, radio and through social media” (“Vatican offers ‘time off purgatory’ to followers of Pope Francis tweets”, guardian.co.uk). “The church’s granted indulgences reduce the time Catholics believe they will have to spend in purgatory after they have confessed and been absolved of their sins” (Ibid).
The Roman Catholic Church teaches God’s justice requires the punishment of sins after they have been forgiven. (Hence, the Catholic doctrines of penance and purgatory.) Indulgences are believed to remit the temporal punishment of such sins. Thus, an indulgence decreases the time one will spend in purgatorial pain of divine justice (“Indulgences”, New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, newadvent.org).
Lest someone misunderstand, a Vatican official warned “web-surfing Catholics that indulgences still required a dose of old-fashioned faith, and that paradise was not just a few mouse clicks away. ‘You can’t obtain indulgences like getting a coffee from a vending machine,’ Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the pontifical council for social communication, told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera”. (I’m glad he cleared that up!) “Getting an indulgence would hinge on the beneficiary having previously confessed and being ‘truly penitent and contrite’ (guardian.co.uk).
In striking contrast, the New Testament says when God forgives sins He remembers them no more (Heb. 8:12; 10:17). When God forgives, the sinner rejoices – nothing of doing penance in order to obtain an indulgence to escape punishment. The gospel frees sinners from spiritual death and punishment (Heb. 2:14-15). Catholicism shackles sinners to the demands of the Church and the fear of painful purgatory unless due penance is performed. Catholic indulgences manipulate the hopeless; the gospel gives real hope (Matt. 11:28-30).
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 09/18/2017
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA